Inflammatory breast cancer survivor: Why I give back to MD Anderson

After being greeted by the breast cancer survivors who volunteer in MD Anderson’s Breast Center on my first day as a patient, I always knew I wanted to give back in that same way one day. Those beautiful women let me know that a breast cancer diagnosis wasn’t going to be an insurmountable obstacle — because they had all been through one, too, and survived. They were clearly thriving, so that provided tangible evidence it was possible. Just to have another person saying, “Look. I’ve been through all of this myself, and you’ll get through it, too,” was so powerful. That was a message I really needed to hear, as I’d just been diagnosed with stage IIIc inflammatory breast cancer, a rare and particularly aggressive form of the disease. My inflammatory breast cancer diagnosis My gynecologist had dismissed the pain and swelling in my left breast as a reaction to birth control pills. He refused to perform any type of scan, even after I specifically requested one. That didn’t sit right with me, so I saw another doctor. Thinking I had an infection, he prescribed an antibiotic and said to come back for a biopsy if my symptoms hadn’t resolved in a couple of weeks. Getting conflicting information from two different doctors isn’t very reassuring, so I called MD Anderson. It was only after doctors there conducted their own tests that I learned the truth: at age 32, I had inflammatory breast cancer. Why the right diagnosis matters At MD Anderson, my inflammatory breast cancer treatment consisted of six months of outpatient chemotherapy, followed by a double mastectomy and...